(PRODUCT)RED Special Edition iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in Article, News

Apple announces special edition (PRODUCT)RED versions of their popular iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus range

product_red_backfrontAs seen previously via their iPod range, Apple have teamed up with the Global Fund to fight AIDS, releasing two brilliant red aluminium finish handsets. Celebrating over 10 years of partnership between themselves and (RED), and edging further towards an AIDS-free generation, customers can now contribute directly to this fantastic cause by purchasing their desired (PRODUCT)RED smartphone.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO stated “Since we began working with (RED) 10 years ago, our customers have made a significant impact in fighting the spread of AIDS through the purchase of our products, from the original iPod nano (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition all the way to today’s lineup of Beats products and accessories for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch,”

He continued, “The introduction of this special edition iPhone in a gorgeous red finish is our biggest (PRODUCT)RED offering to date in celebration of our partnership with (RED), and we can’t wait to get it into customers’ hands.”

Founded back in 2006, (RED)’s efforts have generated over $465 million for the Global Fund, with Apple contributing over $130 million. One hundred percent of all the money raised by (RED) goes to Global Fund HIV/AIDS grants, and their work provides life-saving HIV/AIDS programs in sub-Saharan Africa. These include testing, counselling, treatment and also preventative programs focusing on eliminating transmission from Mother to Child.

“Combining the global reach of the world’s most loved smartphone with our efforts to provide access to life-saving ARV medication in sub-Saharan Africa, customers now have a remarkable opportunity to make a difference and contribute to the Global Fund through the purchase of this new beautiful (PRODUCT)RED iPhone” said Deborah Dugan, (RED)’s CEO.

product_red_main

 

Available worldwide, the special edition iPhones will be available online and in stores from Friday, 24th March. The handsets will be available in 128GB and 256GB models, starting at $749 in the US. Click to find out more on the special edition (PRODUCT)RED iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

What a great cause!

 

What’s to come in 2017!

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in Article, News

Here’s to 2017!

If you’ve just read our What a great 2016, our best bits! article, you’ll know that 2017 will be hard to beat! But we’ve got some brilliant titles in the diary, so read on to discover some sneak peeks due later this year!


Excel VBA in easy steps, 2nd edition

First on our list of 2017 highlights is the hotly anticipated 2nd edition of Excel VBA in easy steps. This fresh new edition will guide you, step by step through the Visual Basic for Applications programming system, allowing you to create your own macro programs, program excel procedures and even create your own excel apps!

This title is out now, so head to the product page to get your copy, for the special launch price of £7.99! (RRP £10.99)

MacBook in easy steps, 5th edition

This imminent release goes hand in hand with any new MacBook, or those updating to Apple’s latest operating system, OS X 10.12. MacBook in easy steps, 5th edition guides you through macOS Sierra, from set-up, the Dock, Finder and Launchpad, to Music, Photos, Apple Pay and using the Universal Clipboard. Locate documents and set up reminders with Siri, and efficiently address battery issues and MacBook safety with the relevant settings.

MacBook in easy steps, 5th edition will help you quickly get up and running with your system, and allow you to easily personalise the features to make it work for you.

Also in the macOS Sierra range: macOS Sierra in easy steps, which covers the essentials of the operating system, macOS X 10.12 – available now!

 

Photoshop Tips, Tricks and Shortcuts in easy steps

If you are a fan of photo editing, and design and imaging software, this title is the one for you! With hundreds of tips and inside information covering all versions of Adobe’s Photoshop CC, this title is ideal for those not getting the most out of their Photoshop software.


The perfect companion for those on a limited budget, Photoshop Tips, Tricks and Shortcuts in easy steps is on hand to help you create professional-looking photos and marketing material. Due early spring 2017, click ‘Let me know when this book is in stock’ for a notification email as soon as it’s here!

 

 

HTML5 in easy steps, 2nd edition

Programming is one of our favourite topics here at In Easy Steps, so what better way to make 2017 the best one yet, than to bring HTML5 in easy steps, 2nd edition along with us! This title covers the new HTML5.1 W3C Recommendation – finalised on November 1, 2016 – and allows easy creation of stunning web pages, and engaging interactive applications.

Ideal for programmers who need to quickly learn the latest HTML5 techniques, students learning website design at school or college, those seeking a career in web development who need a thorough understanding of HTML5, and the enthusiast eager to build the latest HTML5 features into their websites. Due May 2017!

 

Android Tablets for Seniors in easy steps, 3rd editionandroid_vector

The previous edition of this title, Android Tablets for Seniors in easy steps, 2nd edition has been one of our most popular books since its release in the summer of 2015! It was clear to see that we had to bring this fan favourite into 2017, so keep a look out in March 2017 when Android Tablets for Seniors in easy steps, 3rd edition is scheduled to be on the shelves!

In larger type for easier reading, the 3rd edition will cover the latest Android operating system, and help older users get the most out of their Android tablets. From set-up to sending messages, this guide will walk you through all of the vital processes and functions, including connecting to the internet and keeping your tablet safe! Click here for more information.

 

Windows 10 in easy steps – Special Edition, 2nd edition

For all those Windows 10 users, we’re bringing you the 2nd edition of Windows 10 in easy steps – Special Edition, covering the Creators Update. This book is the guide to Windows 10, comprehensive, detailed and concise, and in the trusted In Easy Steps style. Covering installation, personalisation and behind the scenes advanced computing, you can venture further with confidence and make your Windows 10 system work exactly how you want it to.

This title is definitely a key investment for the future, as Windows 10 (being Microsoft’s standalone operating system) will now develop through smaller updates, rather than larger overhauls, and it’s popularity is only increasing! Included in the book is a section on troubleshooting, which means you can easily get to the bottom of any issues you may have, and at your own pace explore the Windows Registry, file encryption, and Command Prompt. A fantastic reference text, Windows 10 in easy steps – Special Edition, 2nd edition is scheduled for an early summer release.

 

Electronics in easy steps

And finally, something a little different for April 2017, is Electronics in easy steps. This fresh new title covers the basics of electricity and electronic components, from simple theory through to actually building, testing and troubleshooting useful and interesting circuits. Ever wondered how to build your own LED system, or where a transistor or a motor goes in a circuit? Well this is the title for you.

Make light work (get it, light work) of the basic electronics building blocks, and discover the ins and outs of electricity and radio systems. Ideal for students, electronics and radio enthusiasts, scout troops or cadets, or those wanting to learn a bit more about everyday electronic processes. Click ‘Let me know when this book is in stock’ on the product page to be added to the notification list (we won’t use your email for anything else).

 

So what do you think? If there are any titles you would like to see covered by In Easy Steps, or if you would like to write for us, fill out a suggestion form here. Alternatively, let us know your feedback by clicking on this link: http://ineasysteps.com/feedback/

For all the latest Coming Soon titles, click here!

 

 

Windows 10 free upgrade offer to end July 29th!

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in Article, News

 

Microsoft has recently announced the vast success of its latest operating system – the touch-focussed Windows 10 – aligning with the upcoming end of its ‘Free Upgrade Offer’ period.

Windows 10, released to consumers on July 29th, 2015 is now ‘running on 300 million active devices around the world ’, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group, Yusuf Mehdi stated in a blog post yesterday (05/05/16). The operating system is reaching its one year anniversary, and with that comes the last few months of the free upgrade, available to all applicable and compatible Windows devices running on the latest OS: Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 Update. Click here to view Windows 10 Specifications.

As one of the largest online services to date, Windows 10 has been adopted by individual home users, schools, businesses both small and large, and wider organisations, all benefiting in some way from the safe and secure experience, the enhanced touch features and the sleek, user-friendly design. Some of the latest facts and figures of Windows 10, stated by Medhi, include;

  • Over 63 billion minutes were spent on Microsoft Edge in March alone, with 50% growth in minutes since the last quarter. Exclusively available on Windows 10, Microsoft Edge is the modern browser for helping you get things done.
  • Cortana, the personal digital assistant in Windows 10, has helped answer over 6 billion questions since launch.
  • People are playing games on Windows 10 more than ever before, with over 9 billion hours of gameplay on Windows 10 since launch.
  • Apps that come with Windows 10, including Photos, Groove Music, and Movies & TV are seeing millions of active users each month, including more than 144 million people using Photos.
  • And, the Windows Store continues to grow daily with new Universal Windows Platform apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger; updated UWP apps from Vine, Hulu, Netflix and Twitter; and popular PC games including Rise of the Tomb Raider and Quantum Break.(https://blogs.windows.com/windowsexperience/2016/05/05/windows-10-now-on-300-million-active-devices-free-upgrade-offer-to-end-soon/)

    Image source: https://blogs.windows.com/windowsexperience/2015/07/28/windows-10-free-upgrade-available-in-190-countries-today

 

Once the free upgrade period has ended on July 29th 2016, you will still be able to get Windows 10 included on new devices, or alternatively purchase the full version of Windows 10 Home for $119 (approximately £99). This price will no doubt be subject to offers, and will be higher for advanced versions such as Windows 10 Pro.

 

Windows 10 is continually being tested and improved, for instance with the November 2015 update which included performance enhancements, bug fixes and improvements to Cortana and Microsoft Edge, as well as the upcoming summer 2016 Windows 10 Anniversary update. All Windows 10 update services are free.

 

So as the one year anniversary nears, don’t forget to take up the free upgrade offer from Microsoft for Windows 10 (if you have a compatible/applicable device), by the 29th July 2016. Many have downloaded and enjoyed the new features, so why not try it out. Our In Easy Steps series of Windows 10 titles covers all users from the beginner to the advanced, from handy pocket-sized guides to books designed specially for the older user.

 

windows10_5bookslide

Don't-Forget-New

 

You can always revert back to your previous system via the settings options in Windows 10, for up to one month after the new system upgrade. Always be sure to have securely backed up your files beforehand, in a safe and remote location.

The low-down on the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in Article, News

All the information on this months Apple Press event – iOS 9 and the brand new iPhones.

As the 9th September Apple press event nears, more and more news pieces and rumours are appearing surrounding the upcoming iPhone duo release, almost certainly due to be unveiled this month at the San Francisco show. As seen in previous years, Apple’s product cycles have given a September announcement and following handset and the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus are the next developments to the vast Apple range.

Following suit with the release cycle, Apple is thought to be implementing refreshed software, a faster processor and possible Force Touch technology, which can differentiate between a soft tap and a deep press, making the touch screen all the more intuitive. This would align with the alternating cycle of new hardware and software designs each year, and with the new iOS 9 software, the timing is perfect.

After inviting journalists to the September 9th event, through a fun and brand focussed ‘Hey Siri, give us a hint’, Siri kept quiet on the subject, giving coy responses likening the user to a kid at Christmas.

So what can you expect with the new iPhones?

A follow up to the September 2014 iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the new couple to arrive this autumn are the iPhone 6s, and 6s Plus – unofficially known as the iPhone 7.

These new models will undoubtedly feature an enhanced battery life, Force Touch (as seen on the Apple Watch) and a possible 12 mega pixel camera, as well as a suggested 2GB of RAM in the A9 processor. Higher screen resolution is pretty much a given, as well as – unfortunately – a higher price.

The 6s Plus will of course be bigger, and most likely more powerful. The included iOS 9 operating system will bring a more intelligent Siri and redesigned built-in apps, improved stability and Apple Pay Touch ID functionality. Build-wise; reports suggest perhaps either a Liquidmetal body or use of a stronger Series 7000 aluminium alloy to stave off any mishaps similar to 2014’s ‘bend-gate’ saga. The aesthetic design and screen size of the iPhone 6s is likely to remain close to the iPhone 6, with some colour variances and minute change in thickness.

These handsets – or at least the iPhone 6s – should be available around mid-September, with many tech websites stating September 18th. Keep your eyes peeled, as Apple may be releasing a new iPad too!

Coming soon….

You can find out all you need to know about iOS 9 with our upcoming titles – all in easy steps! Click herefor more information!

How to obtain Windows 10 for free

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in Article

After the exciting news of the upcoming Windows 10 release, made even better by the fact it is free to all qualifying Windows 7 and 8 users, we’ve looked into the actual upgrade process after July 29th.

As How to obtain Windows 10 - in easy stepsmentioned above, as long as you register within one year of the July 29th release of Windows 10, Microsoft will let you have the upgrade for free. There are a few things to watch out for though, particularly one phrase stating the upgrade is for the “supported lifetime of the device”. It’s quite unclear what this means and as yet, Microsoft have not clarified. Also, your computer will need to be capable of running Windows 10, the main specifications being: 1GHz processor, 1GB RAM (32-bit Windows) or 2GB RAM (64-bit Windows), and 16GB of free disk space.

For those considering a new PC or Laptop; if you upgrade to Windows 10 from a previous retail version, you can then install the updated system to a new computer! The old version will need to be removed, but this is great news if you were considering buying a pre-installed Windows 10 device.

Another point to bear in mind is the type of Windows licence you have. It will be the same once the upgrade has been completed, so if you have changed any major components the software may need reactivating.

All will surely be elaborated come launch day though!

How to upgrade:

  1. Your computer will need to be on the latest version its current operating system before the upgrade. This can be checked through Windows Update. Once updated to either Windows 7SP1 or Windows 8.1, a Windows tile icon should appear in the notification area of the desktop – this may have already appeared if your PC is up to date.
  2. Click the Windows tile icon to begin the Get Windows 10 app. Here you can check your device complies with the Windows 10 requirements by clicking the Menu button (top-left of the screen, three horizontal lines) and then Check My PC. Don’t worry, if you need to update anything or clear some space, the app will notify you accordingly.
  3. Reserve your upgrade: Click Menu and then Reserve to secure your free copy of Windows 10. You can view confirmation in the Menu, and you will be notified when Windows 10 has downloaded. Once ready, you will then be able to install an in-place upgrade of your operating system to complete the upgrade to Windows 10. From here, you can then transfer the upgrade to a new device (a clean install) from an ISO by Microsoft, using a DVD or USB flash drive.
And that’s it!

Remember, you have one year from July 29th to complete this installation so make sure to claim yours! Your upgrade will depend on the system you have, which can be determined below:

Windows 7 Starter  →  Windows 10 Home

Windows 7 Home Basic  →  Windows 10 Home

Windows 7 Home Premium  →  Windows 10 Home

Windows 7 Professional → Windows 10 Pro

Windows 7 Ultimate  →  Windows 10 Pro

Windows 8  →  Windows 10 Home

Windows 8 Pro  →  Windows 10 Pro

Windows 8.1  →  Windows 10 Home

Windows 8.1 Pro →  Windows 10 Pro

 

For further information on Windows 10, why not have a look at our upcoming series including:

Windows 10 in easy steps and Get going with Windows 10 in easy steps – both due August 2015.

How to Maintain your Mac

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in Article

Adapted from Mac Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts in easy steps by Drew Provan

Macs do not need much looking after, although in the past we were advised to defragment our hard drives and carry out other household cleaning tasks. Now with OS X there is little that needs doing on a regular basis!

Maintenance worth carrying out:

  • Clear Safari history and caches
  • Clearing cookies from Safari and other browsers
  • Clearing old logs and User cache folder

Automate the Cleaning!

There are several apps that can clear out all of the unwanted files. Some are free and others are paid apps.

Three useful maintenance apps:

CCleaner is a very simple app, ported over from Windows. It carries out a very limited range of cleaning functions and does not clean out the User cache. It does, however, deal with the internet debris and temporary browser files pretty well. OnyX and MainMenu are more powerful than CCleaner but perform similar functions.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 16

Defragmenting your Drive

Hard drives can become fragmented over time. This is because, as the drives fill up, there is no space to write large files so they end up being split into several parts across the drive. When you open the file, the Mac has to look around for all the pieces and join these in order to open the file.

Note: There is no defragmentation app built into OS X (unlike Windows which includes an app to defragment your drive)

iDefrag

There are several apps available for defragmenting drives running OS X. iDefrag (http://www.coriolis-systems.com/iDefrag.php) is probably the best.

 

Beware-New

 

Never defragment an SSD drive. They have a finite number of read/writes and the drive will fail faster if you defrag!

 

 

Clear the Desktop!

The Mac has to keep track of many items and the Desktop is one of them. The more files and folders you have on the Desktop, the harder the Mac has to work to keep track of all these files. With the speed increases seen with newer Macs you may not notice the slowdown so much, but it is good practice to keep your Desktop as clear as you can.

  1. Regularly file your documents in the Documents folder (create sub-folders within the Documents folder)
  2. If you must keep some items on the Desktop, consider creating a folder on the Desktop and dropping them into that
  3. Try creating aliases for frequently accessed folders

Find out more great Mac ideas in Mac Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts in easy steps, by Drew Provan or visit us at www.ineasysteps.com!

Apple Music, the new streaming service to rival Spotify?

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in Article

You may have noticed the term Apple Music in the media recently, due to some top musicians – most notably Taylor Swift – challenging the big guys at Apple to rightfully pay for the music they are selling, but what actually is it?

Apple Music is touted to be the Spotify of the Apple world. At WWDC 2015 Apple unveiled the new service; a mix of Beats Music and iTunes, with a 24-hour live radio broadcast, personalised playlists, recommendations and the whole vault of iTunes music ready and waiting for your listening pleasure. From BBC Radio 1 fame DJ Zane Lowe will headline station Beats 1, alongside a selection of expertly curated stations from world renowned DJ’s and artists. There will be industry insights, knowledge, news and reviews encompassing the whole music world.

Starting from the first setup, the technology behind Apple Music personally curates – Apple Music is all about ‘curating’ – results and suggestions from what you initially search, and over time learns all about all your likes and dislikes. There are innovative playlists curated by a worldwide team, which constantly update and change throughout the day so you’ll never listen to the same list of songs, unless you want to.

One of the top features of Apple Music is Connect. Here artists can post an array of exclusive media, behind the scenes photos, videos, unreleased demos, or stripped back versions of a favourite track, all at the mercy of their dedicated fan base. Apple Music’s own social-media hub if you like. You can view, comment, like, favourite and share all this exciting content, right at your fingertips.

In terms of membership, there are two main profiles once you have passed the three month free trial. Single membership, which is pretty self explanatory and family membership, which allows up to six people unlimited access on their devices. Both will have a price attached, but with membership your whole music library is in iCloud, so very little space is taken up on your devices.

Once released and all devices are up to date, Apple Music can be accessed (to a certain degree) on iPhones, iPads, iPod touch, the Watch, Macs, PCs and even Android in the near future. The great thing about Apple Music is that all of your music will be in one place regardless of where it came from. Tell Siri to play the greatest hits of the 80’s, or add a song to your favourite playlist and she will. There’s even a feature for offline use!

So there you have it. Apple Music. Coming soon to a device near you. Now with fully paid artists, labels and publishers alike.

Find out more at http://www.apple.com/uk/music/

Why Agile Project Management?

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in Article

The traditional approach to project management starts by a definition of what exactly the project is required to achieve. This usually means an agreement between all parties concerned, including the project manager, of when and what the end result should be. This method of project management is largely based on a sequential design process referred to as the ‘waterfall’ model. It is termed this as progress is seen as flowing steadily downwards (like a waterfall) through each stage of the project. This model is inherited from the construction industry, where the prohibitive cost of making late changes means requirements are frozen as early as possible in the project.

However, this method does not suit software development process, where requirements could and often change during the course of a project. A more adaptive alternative was needed and through the 1990s methods such as Scrum, DSDM (Dynamic Systems Development Method), Extreme Programming, and Lean Development evolved to meet these needs. Following these methods, collectively referred to as ‘agile’, requirements are developed through the life of the project and delivered through a series of releases, each of which delivers more of the required functionality.

The traditional waterfall approach to project management does not fit comfortably with these agile methods, so a new form of Agile Project Management is now used for software development. The key aspects of Agile Project Management are:

  • Requirements: are expected to develop and change during the project
  • Planning: is carried out as late as responsible by the development team
  • Project Phases: contain several iterations, leading to a number of product releases
  • Change Control: is replaced by the features backlog, which is controlled by the business
  • Risk Management: is shared by the developers and the business through the product owner
  • Organization: the way of working is managed by the development team

Planning for Windows 8

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in Article, News

Windows 8 is the next version of Windows.

Microsoft have already released a Developer Preview and the initial Beta version is due shortly. Windows 8 features the new Start Screen which replaces the Start menu and displays active tiles with the new Metro Apps that are being. You will be familiar with this type of interface if you use a Smartphone such as Windows Phone (which incidentally is also a member of the Windows 8 family).

If you are currently running Windows Vista or Windows 7, or planning to upgrade your existing system to Windows 7, the same configuration will run Windows 8.
For a conventional desktop or laptop PC, the requirements are:

  • 64-bit (x64)
  • CPU with 1 GHz
  • 20 GByte Hard disk space
  • 2 GByte RAM
  • DirectX-9 graphics Card
  • 32-bit (x86/x32)
  • CPU with 1 GHz
  • 16 GByte Hard disk space
  • 1 GByte RAM
  • DirectX-9 graphics Card

On these systems, Windows 8 will run your existing desktop applications, such as Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer, and it will also support the new Start Screen and the Metro Apps, with the mouse or keyboard being used to perform the same action that are supported via the Touch functions on the Tablet PCs.
You can therefore be ready for the launch of Windows 8 in the fourth quarter, without having to switch the new class of Windows 8 PCs that are currently under development.
You can go one step further and add a Touch-sensitive monitor to your desktop computer (or use a Windows 7 laptop that supports Touch). However, most existing displays are limited in the level of Touch capability offered and so would not be fully Windows 8 compliant.

The Windows 8 interface comes into its own when used with touch-based, tablet or convertible PCs, in particular the Windows on ARM (WOA) PCs that use the ARM processor rather than Intel or AMD.

These PCs are still under development, but they will feature additional hardware requirements including:

  • Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI)
  • WLAN and Bluetooth 4.0 + LE (low energy)
  • Direct 3D 10 with WDDM 1.2 driver
  • 1366x768px resolution
  • At least five touch points
  • 720 pixel Camera

Other requirements include USB port and speakers, plus special purpose items such as an accelerometer and a gyroscope. The device must also provide a minimum set of buttons including the Windows Key, Power, Rotation lock and Volume. For devices without keyboards, the Windows Key + Power buttons act as Ctrl+Alt+Del.
As further interim versions of Windows 8 are released and Windows 8 compliant hardware becomes available, the configurations will be refined and confirmed, and the level of capability offered by the various classes of PC will become clearer.  We will also be able to investigate the new versions of software that will be released along with Windows 8, including Internet Explorer 10 and Microsoft Office 2012.
About the author
Michael Price is an accomplished author, IT journalist and systems consultant with a wide experience of computing systems ranging from mainframes to personal computers. He’s also a successful author with several best-selling In Easy Steps books to his credit.
Books by Michael Price
•    Windows 7 in easy steps : Special Edition
•    Windows 7 for Seniors in easy steps
•    Office 2010 in easy steps
•    Office 2010 for Seniors in easy steps
•    Excel 2010 in easy steps
•    Office 2007 for Seniors in easy steps
•    Office 2007 in easy steps
•    Excel 2007 in easy steps
•    Internet for Seniors in easy steps, UK edition
•    Internet for Seniors in easy steps, International edition
•    Internet for Seniors in easy steps, Windows Vista edition
•    Windows Vista for Seniors in easy steps
•    Wireless Home Networking in easy steps, 2nd edition
•    Computer Basics in easy steps, covers Windows 7
•    Computer Basics in easy steps

Developing Apps for Android phones

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in Article

App Inventor for Android lets people create apps for Android phones by manipulating programming blocks in a web browser.   Since July 2010, Google has run App Inventor  as a large-scale public web service as a part of its Google Labs suite.  With the wind down of Google Labs, as of December 31, 2011, Google ended support of App Inventor.

In order to ensure the future success of App Inventor, Google Research has funded the establishment of the Center for Mobile Learning at the MIT Media Lab.  Sometime in the first quarter of 2012, the Center plans to provide a large scale App Inventor service for general public access, similar to the one Google ran.  Improvements will be made to the Google version of App Inventor before MIT make it available for public access.

“Building Android Apps in easy steps” will be published to coincide with the public release of the MIT version of App Inventor to demonstrate each aspect of building applications for the Android platform, including all the latest innovations.

Contributor :

Mike McGrath

Fighting Spam

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in Article

By Stuart Yarnold

Some interesting statistics on spam:

  • Currently, some 80 % of email traffic is estimated to be spam
  • 30 billion spam emails are sent every day
  • 78 % of PC users receive spam on a daily basis
  • 4 % of recipients make a purchase as a result of a received spam email
  • Worldwide, the cost of dealing with spam is estimated to be 50 billion dollars annually

If the spammers have you in their sights, what can you do about it? The first and most obvious step is to simply delete your account and open a new one with a different address. This will stop any spammers who are currently jamming your inbox. However, for many users this will not be an option for various reasons. If so, do the following:

  1. In the case of spam from specific websites, add the website’s address to your email program’s Blocked Senders list.
  2. In the case of spam from unidentifiable sources, use your email program’s message filters. These can be set up and configured to cut out the majority of spam. Typical examples are:
    • Emails containing specific words commonly found in spam, such as sex, porn, money, free, etc.
    • Emails over a specified size.
    • Emails that contain attachments

    However, while the filters provided with programs such as Outlook and Outlook Express are useful, they will never stop it completely; the spammers know how to circumvent the most common rules set up by users. One such method is to deliberately misspell a keyword. For example, Viaggra instead of Viagra. The recipient knows what is meant but the filter doesn’t, and thus will let the message through. Another problem is that because these filters are literal in the sense that they allow no exceptions, sometimes legitimate emails are blocked.

    A much more efficient type of filter is the Bayesian filter. This is available as a third-party product (meaning you must buy it) and integrates with your email program. Its effectiveness is due to the fact that it is “intelligent”, and thus can be trained, much in the same way as Voice Recognition software. The Bayesian filter examines all aspects of a message, as opposed to keyword checking that classifies a message as spam on the basis of a single word or phrase. Once set up and trained, it will eliminate 99 % of spam.

  3. Add your contacts to your email program’s Safe Senders list. You can then block all other senders with the filters.
  4. Having stopped the flood of spam, make sure it stays stopped. This means never giving your email address to anyone who can’t be trusted. Never do either of the following:
    • Give your address to a website; many sites sell lists of email addresses to the spammers. Furthermore, spammers use automated software that trawl the Internet looking for the @ symbol used in all email addresses. If a particular site requires you to enter your address in order to gain access, give a false one.
      Alternatively, set up an account specifically for this purpose.
    • Click the “Unsubscribe from this mailing list” link in a spam email. This confirms to the spammer that a real address has been reached and could open the floodgates.
  5. Sell the PC and take up residence on a deserted island. It’s probably the only way guaranteed to avoid spam.

About the author

Stuart Yarnold is an electronics engineer who has been working in the industry since leaving college. Originally a marine radio & radar troubleshooter, he now devotes much of his time to playing poker professionally and can usually be found lurking in one of the online poker rooms.

Stuart lives near Cambridge with his wife Pauline and his two staffordshire bull terriers – Jim and George. His hobbies include woodworking and marathon running.

Online Poker – An Overview

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in Article

By Stuart Yarnold

Quite apart from being an invaluable information resource, the Internet provides many means of recreation, one of the most popular of which is gambling. This comes in various forms: spread betting, casino games such as blackjack and roulette, stocks and shares, etc. The one we are going to look at here is poker.

Currently, there are four to five hundred poker sites and the first step is to choose one, download and install the software, and then open an account. Making sure you use a reputable poker room is important as some do not play by the rules, i.e. they are not to be trusted. Slow pay-outs, and refusal to answer queries, are typical examples of this. Also, the software provided by some sites is buggy and prone to frequent crashing. As a recommendation, we suggest the following sites:

  • PartyPoker
  • PokerStars
  • Ladbrokes
  • UltimateBet

These are all well established, use efficient and reliable software, and offer good customer support and fast pay-outs. Those of you who want to play purely for fun with little financial risk are advised to use sites like UltimateBet and Ladbrokes, which offer micro-limit tables where you can play for a few cents.

Online poker rooms offer three main games – Texas Hold’em, Omaha, and Seven-Card Stud. Texas Hold’em is the one most commonly played as it is the most straightforward, and thus the easiest to learn. This is the one featured on the TV channels.

Probably the most popular form of online poker is the tournaments. With these, you buy-in for a fixed amount, get a stack of chips, and play until you are either eliminated or win the tournament. Multi-table tournaments offer the chance to win serious sums of money but can take many hours of your time. Plus, you may have several thousand players to beat. Single-table tournaments are quick (usually an hour or less) and are always available (as soon as you’ve finished one, you can start another). To be in the money, you need to finish in the top two or three depending on the initial number of players. Single-tables are the most popular as you ‘know where you are’ in terms of outlay and time. You also have a much higher chance of finishing in the money as you only have a few players to beat.

Be aware that there is a lot more to poker than might be apparent. To play this game successfully demands a good grasp of strategy, experience, plus human qualities such as patience and common sense. If you jump in before you are ready, you will lose.

Tips

Observance of the following will get you off to as good a start as possible:

  • Learn the rules and strategies thoroughly by buying a good reference book, such as Online Poker in easy steps
  • Get a feel for the mechanics of both the game itself, and the software, by playing at the free money tables initially
  • Begin at the low-limit tables and don’t be tempted to move up until you can beat them consistently
  • Avoid the no-limit form of the game initially. Unlike fixed-limit poker where the sizes of the bets are restricted, in no-limit games, bets can be huge and the inexperienced player can come unstuck very quickly
  • Don’t chase your losses – on some days the cards will be completely against you and no matter how well you play, you will lose. Put the cards down and try again another day

About the author

Stuart Yarnold is an electronics engineer who has been working in the industry since leaving college. Originally a marine radio & radar troubleshooter, he now devotes much of his time to playing poker professionally and can usually be found lurking in one of the online poker rooms.

Stuart lives near Cambridge with his wife Pauline and his two staffordshire bull terriers – Jim and George. His hobbies include woodworking and marathon running.

Understanding Camera Raw

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in Article

By Robert Shufflebotham

With the relentless advance of digital camera technology, many pro-level and some mid-range digital cameras now allow you to record images as “raw” files. But, do you need camera raw, and what are the advantages and implications if you decide to use it?

Most digital cameras use either CCD (charge-coupled device) or CMOS (complimentary metal oxide semiconductor) sensor technology to capture image data. Raw image files record the precise data captured by the photosensitive sensors of the camera without applying any of the processing that would be required to convert it into JPEG or TIFF file format.

Early digital cameras and most entry level digital cameras convert raw data into a format such as JPEG. This is done by the camera at time of capture by an in-built converter. Typically, this on-board camera processing calculates settings for white balance, gamma correction, noise reduction, anti aliasing and sharpening together with colorimetric rendering. The image is also compressed using the JPEG algorithm.

JPEG compression has a significant disadvantage particularly where high quality, high resolution images are required. To compress image data, the JPEG compression algorithm averages out some of the color information with the potential loss of color values and detail. High JPEG compression settings can also introduce noticeable compression artifacts. These can be particularly visible along hard edges and in high contrast areas. Skin tones and gradients can also prove difficult for JPEG compression.

What is Raw ?
A raw file records the precise data captured by the sensors of the camera without any processing. Raw files consist of data recording color and luminosity values captured by the sensors and image metadata. Metadata is data about data. For example, raw files, as well as JPEG files, contain ExIF (Exchangeable Image Format) metadata which includes information such as camera model, shutter speed, aperture and focal length.

When you capture an image using your camera’s raw format it is only ISO speed, shutter speed and aperture that have an effect on the captured pixels. When you open the raw file using the Adobe Photoshop CS2 Camera Raw dialog box you can control settings for white point, colorimetric rendering, noise reduction sharpening and so on.

In Photoshop CS2, use Adobe Bridge to locate raw image files downloaded to your computer. (See Chapter 3, Opening and Saving Files in Photoshop CS2 in easy steps, for further information on using Adobe Bridge.) Double-click a raw file thumbnail to open the image in the Camera Raw dialog box. Create the settings you require, then click the Open button to convert the image to an RGB image for use in Photoshop.

For professional photographers a significant advantage of raw files is that the sensors on cameras capable of saving raw files can typically record data at at least 12 bits per channel (providing a possible 4096 shades per pixel). JPEG compression reduces color data it records to 8 bits per color channel.

This can become a significant disadvantage for many amateur users in that raw image files are considerably larger than files saved in other file formats – up to 5 or 6 six times greater than the equivalent JPEG. Capturing raw image data can dramatically reduce the number of images you can record to the camera’s storage card.

Camera Raw is a general term which encompasses a range of proprietary files formats from different camera manufacturers, such as Nikon’s .NEF, Olympus’ .ORF or Canon’s .CRW. The Photoshop Camera Raw plug-in for Photoshop CS, which allows you to open and process raw image files, was released in February 2003. An upgraded version supporting more cameras and with added functionality became available in Photoshop CS2.

Visit: www.adobe.com/products/photoshop/cameraraw.html for a complete list of supported cameras.
Digital Negative (DNG) Format
One of the issues surrounding raw file formats is that they are typically proprietary formats; belonging to the camera manufacturers and not publicly available. Understandably, camera manufacturers that spend large amounts of money on research and development are reluctant to divulge the exact technical details of their own raw file formats as this could prove costly and result in loss of competitive advantage.

The intention of Digital Negative (DNG), developed by Adobe as a file format for raw files, is to establish an open industry standard so that all camera manufactures can work to a common set of specifications which will ultimately benefit the entire industry and especially the end user.

Crucially, DNG has the potential to provide photographers with a format they can use to archive images, safe in the knowledge that they will be able to access these images in the future. This removes the reliance on a proprietary format that may, or may not, be supported in the future.

The success of DNG as an open standard would also make it much easier to transfer and share raw images in complex workflows and between photographers and agencies.
Conclusion
The core consideration, when deciding whether or not to capture images using raw data, is whether or not you want ultimate control over settings such as white balance, brightness and contrast, noise reduction, sharpening and color rendition and are prepared to take the time to make these decisions. The Camera Raw functionality in Adobe Photoshop CS2 gives you access to the set of tools you need if you decide to follow this route.

About the author

Robert Shufflebotham is a software training consultant with over 21 years experience of delivering software training. He trains on a regular basis for some of the largest and most prestigious magazine, book and newspaper publishers in the world. He also has a MA in Electronic Media.

Understanding Regular Expressions By Mike McGrath

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in Article

A “Regular Expression” is simply a pattern describing a particular string of characters. Regular Expressions are often referred to as “regex” or “regexp” and are supported by most programming languages, such as C++, and scripting languages such as JavaScript. Regular Expressions are useful for text validation and for search-and-replace operations within text by matching their specified pattern to a section of the text.

A Regular Expression pattern may consist entirely of “literal characters” describing a particular character string to match within some text. For example, the Regular Expression ind finds a match in windows – the pattern literally matches the string within the text.

More typically a Regular Expresssion pattern consists of a combination of literal characters and “metacharacters” to describe a particular character string. Metacharacters have special meaning within the pattern rather than any literal meaning. For instance, the character ^ (circumflex or caret) is a metacharacter that has special meaning – it DOES NOT literally represent the actual caret character. It can control at which position in the text the match will be considered valid.

Most languages also support Regular Expression “Abbreviations” for frequently used Character Classes and Position expressions.

Here are 10 frequently used Regular Expressions:

1. Leading whitespace: ^\s+
2. Trailing whitespace: \s+$
3. Numbers from 0 to 999999: ^\d$
4. Valid HTML hexadecimal color values: ^#([a-fA-F0-9])(([a-fA-F0-9]))?$
5. U.S. Zip Code: ^\d(-\d)?$
6. U.S. Currency: ^\$(\d(\,\d)*|\d+)(\.\d)?$
7. U.S. Social Security Number: ^\d-\d-\d$
8. Date as MM/DD/YYYY HH:MM:SS: ^\d\d\/\d\d\/\d\d\d\d \d\d:\d\d:\d\d$
9. Email Address: ^[0-9a-zA-Z]([-.\w]*[0-9a-zA-Z_+])*@([0-9a-zA-Z][-\w]*[0-9a-zA-Z]\.)+[a-zA-Z]$
10. HTTP URL: (https?):\/\/([0-9a-zA-Z][-\w]*[0-9a-zA-Z]\.)+([a-zA-Z])(:\d)?([-\w\/#~:.?+=&%@~]*)

About the author

Mike McGrath now lives in South-east Europe, on the sun-kissed shores of the Aegean Sea. Mike gained his extensive knowledge of computer languages while working as a developer contracting to companies around the world. His interests include coins of ancient Greece, dining-out with friends, and the ongoing evolution of the world wide web.